Sunday, July 22, 2012

Grille One Sixteen (Carrollwood), Tampa, FL

Grille One Sixteen has, until now, been a well-kept secret tucked away in the largely-unexplored (by UD and me, not by the population at large) culinary territory of Carrollwood.  At the recommendation of friends (who also happened to be our dining partners of the evening), UD and I braved a Saturday night monsoon and made the epic journey to the other side of the world town to check it out (after receiving funding from King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, of course).  As soon as we entered the sleek, urban chic venue (really, I almost imagined I was in South Beach instead of the Tampa 'burbs), I sensed we were in for a treat.  We got very attentive service which stopped just short of being intrusive, as our gregarious waiter chimed in on our personal convos more than once over the course of the evening...which kind of irritated the boys more than it did the girls since it was so easy for us to imagine how extremelydifficult it must be to resist joining in the scintillating discourse of such a fabulous foursome.  Nonetheless, he was enthusiastic, had an admirable knowledge of the menu and paced the meal very nicely. We spent three enjoyable hours at Grille enjoying our wine, food and after-dinner drinks without ever being made to feel that we were overstaying our welcome, despite the fact that the place was slammed.

We were seated in a cozy booth with padded walls that went almost to the ceiling on three sides, serving the dual purpose of providing privacy and keeping the noise level down.  Music was also played at a civilized volume, making this a great choice for a date since conversation is in no way hindered.  I truly despise having to shout to be heard over dinner, so I'm bestowing a few of my much-coveted bonus points on Grille One Sixteen for their thoughtfulness.

While there wasn't a huge selection of wine, most of the bases were covered and the pricing was reasonable.  A full bar was also available with pretty much anything you could ask for outside of frozen drinks (not available here).

On to the food...oh, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how much I loved the back-lighting on the menu pages.  For once, I didn't have to drag out the "sorry, bitch...but you ARE in your fifties" reading glasses or rely on my Seeing Eye Spouse to read the menu to me.  This feature should be mandatory in all Florida restaurants (this is God's Waiting Room, after all).

We all found the medium-rare Kobe Beef Sliders with wasabi mustard, horseradish, pickles and caramelized shallots to be ridiculously precious.  Served on soft, steamed buns, they disappeared in the blink of an eye.

Our group also shared the Warm Pretzel Loaf with Spinach and Artichoke Spread, which was the deal of the century for four bucks. Sometimes soft pretzels can be too dense, but this loaf was pillow soft on the inside with the familiar salt-crusted and pleasingly "shellacked" exterior, which made a delightful carrier for the cheesy, veggilicious spread (this is a fun way to get your MDR of iron, ladies).  Thick, perfectly cooked slabs of Neuske's Applewood Smoked Bacon rounded out the appetizer course of our feeding frenzy.

Salads were well above average.  I loved my slightly deconstructed house Caesar with its cold, crunchy heart of romaine leaves; creamy, garlicky dressing and house-made croutons...and so did everyone else who got it.
Dogboy, our resident tomato lover, elected to pay a surcharge for the Beefsteak Tomato and Grilled Onion Salad with warm balsamic glaze and Maytag bleu cheese...and he seemed mightily happy with his decision.  Raw tomatoes are one of the few foods on the planet which I cannot abide, but even I must admit that it looked pretty.

Being a native Tennessean, I am required by law to love grits (and when you toss in some cheese, I'm truly powerless to resist them) so there was no way I could pass up the Pan Seared Diver Scallops with sweet corn puree, nestled on little beds of the house Gruyere grits and embellished with more of the Neuske bacon bits. I adored the textural contrast as well as the combination of sweet and smoky flavors in my was SO good.  I added a tempura fried lobster tail on the side (lest I go hungry) since our companions had enjoyed them on a previous visit and were raving about them.  More to come on the tails.

Justine, who is verysmart, demonstrated her high level of intelligence by going with the trio of Tempura Fried Lobster Tails with sweet & heat Asian-inspired dipping sauces and a decadent crock of  Four Cheese Mac.  My dinner was delish, but this left me bitterly wishin' I was her (and her probably bitterly wishing I'd keep my fork out of her plate).  Lobster, fried, sweet, spicy, pasta, cheese...what we have here are all the elements of a natural remedy for female hormonal imbalance.

Underdog went beef-geek rogue and ordered the organic Angus spinalis cut (also known as "cap of ribeye").  Come to find out, the spinalis is one of the rarest cuts of meat and extremely difficult to find (gawd knows we'd never heard of it). It is the super tender, heavily marbled muscle running around the outside of a ribeye. It's virtually never offered as a whole steak because once the spinalis is cut away from the rest of the ribeye, the remaining meat is difficult to sell and often goes to waste.  Throwing caution and arterial-consciousness to the wind, he had it topped with blue crab hollandaise and requested a sidecar of Rum Glazed Sweet Potato Mash.  Despite a somewhat spartan presentation, this was sheer decadence on a plate.

Our buddy Brian's entree was a special of the evening...a pan-seared snapper with broccolini (I guess there has to be that one healthy eater at every table, but he ultimately failed in his pathetic attempt at righteousness when dessert time came).  It was a gorgeous piece of fish, though...nicely caramelized on the outside while retaining a sweet, flaky interior.

It was difficult to even contemplate dessert at this point, but the guys insisted so the women-folk let them make the selections.  While my pulse didn't quicken at the sight of the Warm Peanut Butter S'more with Ice Cream on paper since peanut butter is not terribly high on my list of food faves, I almost fainted from ecstasy when I tasted a spoonful.  Peanut butter, chocolate and graham crackers were presented layered in a crock with vanilla ice cream, and the entire thing was liberally slathered with toasted marshmallow cream.  Forget about the hail damage your thighs will almost certainly sustain if you eat this and dig only go around once.

The House-Made Donuts topped with vanilla, caramel, chocolate and raspberry sauce that the establishment bills as their signature dessert were hot and fresh, but at the end of the day they were still just donuts.  I'm not criticizing their quality...this just wasn't the most exciting dessert anyone's ever put in front of me. Overall, I found the limited offering of sweet finishes to be faintly disappointing (or maybe I'm just being petty because a lack of bread pudding always makes me a little cranky).

This is a dinner I would slot into the "very good" category, overall.   Food quality, ambience, service and price make Grille One Sixteen a worthy destination.

Grille One Sixteen on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. My...what a grandé dining experience! Thanks for sharing your evening with me.